For the first time in 40 years West Virginia will soon have a new Commissioner of Agriculture. And in North Carolina voters returned their agriculture commissioner to office on Nov. 6, giving N.C. Commissioner Steve Troxler a third go-around in the office.
In West Virginia, Democrat Walt Helmick, a Democrat from Pocahontas County defeated Republican Kent Leonhardt for the top agriculture office in the state. Leonhardt, a farmer from Monongalia County, raises cattle sheep and goats on his 380-acre farm. During the campaign he criticized Helmick for seeking the office even though he maintained Helmick was not a farmer.
Helmick received 52% of the vote in a close race. Leonhardt received 48%.
North Carolina incumbent Steve Troxler won his office by a 6.5% margin over Democrat challenger Walter Smith, a poultry farmer from Yadkin County. Troxler is a tobacco and row crop farmer from Browns Summit in Guilford County.
During his tenure in office, the N.C. legislature transferred the N.C. Forestry Service, the Division of Soil and Water, Grade A milk inspections and Bedding inspections to the NCDA&CS, making it the largest Council of State department outside of the Governor's office. During the 2012 campaign, Troxler emphasized his service as president of the National Association of Departments of Agriculture (NASDA), as well as his work in expanding the agricultural economy in the state and his efforts to improve food safety.
"I understand this industry inside and out, and have the vision and leadership ability to continue to move us forward," Troxler said.
The retiring West Virginia Commissioner of Agriculture Gus R. Douglass congratulated both Helmick and Leonhardt, for a difficult but well-fought campaign.
"Both candidates ran good campaigns, and the voters have spoken – in this race, and in all the others throughout our great nation," said Commissioner Douglass. "My administration is committed to a smooth transition, and we will help commissioner-elect Helmick in any way possible. The Department has a dedicated group of professionals that remain committed to serving and assisting the public."
Douglass served an unprecedented 11-terms as commissioner. He first went to work for the West Virginia Department of Agriculture as assistant commissioner in 1957.
"I am so appreciative of the people of West Virginia, who had the faith in me to elect me 11 times," said Commissioner Douglass. "I have always tried to be a voice for our small farmers, and to make known the issues facing rural West Virginia. It has been a great run."